1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: October 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Now, back to our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

I am willing to bet that readers of LiveBloggin' the ICW were beginning to think this blog was actually 'All Anchoring Fight, All the Time'. I'm pleased to say that isn't the case at all. Right now, there is nothing happening (publicly), but be prepared. It's coming, and I'll be sure to keep you up to date on developments in this fight.
As many of you know, I'm leading the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally from Deltavile VA to Miami FL, sponsored by Waterway Guides. It has been a fantastic trip already, with our first week behind us.
Currently, all but one of our 16 boats in the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally are in Belhaven NC, and the trip thus far has been just amazing. The weather has co-operated, although to avoid some nastiness on the Albermarle Sound, we left a day early from Albermarle Plantation and had a very calm run to the anchorage at the north end of the Alligator Pungo Canal.
We missed out on Sundays' oyster roast, but the spread they put out for us the night before was amazing.....we're talking three HUGE tables of food, and ANOTHER one just for desserts, PLUS wine and beer. These guys know how to show a sailor a good time, and I thank them again on behalf of all of us.
fyi, the Albermarle Plantation is part of the Albermarle Loop program, and you can get two nights free dockage there. Believe me, this place is worth the detour! Beautiful homes, beautiful grounds, clubhouse....
Lucky thing we chose to leave early however. The Waterway Guide boat, which left the following day, described conditions as 'sporty'....as in 3.5 - 4 foot square waves kind of sporty with 20 - 25 knot winds. Not a fun time at all, as Jim and Mary, our trawler couple on Pegasus, told us. They also left the following day due to some minor mechanical issues that required a mechanic.
In Belhaven, we were greeted at the River Forest Marina and given a true southern welcome last night. For those unaware, the River Forest Marina has been sold and the new owners are very rapidly bringing it back to what it was for many years - THE place to stop on the ICW. Big changes, upgraded docks, clean fuel and gorgeous facility.
River Forest Marina...
We were feted with a fabulous wine and cheese table, courtesy of Spoon River Restaurant
Pigeon Toes leaving Elizabeth City
- and is my waterline sinking after all this great food? - and some prize drawings, courtesy of the Belhaven Chamber of Commerce.
After this, we went on to the Tavern at Jack's Neck, which opened especially to host us. We had their fabulous pizza in the gorgeous surroundings...again, a place to check out.
From here, we move on to Beaufort, where we will be exploring the Maritime Museum, home of the Queen Anne's Revenge - Blackbeard's ride! This is a great museum, and we'll be delivered there via the trolley from the Boathouse on Front Street - talk about a class act and great fun.
You can follow the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally's adventures on our public Facebook page, and please feel free to comment, ask questions, or just enjoy the fun with us.
You can also follow us via the Where's Wally link on this blog - and see the exact location of the fleet as we chase the sun southward. Hopefully, next year you'll be with us on our journey!
Jim, from Pegasus, relaxing

Tavern at Jack's Neck - GREAT pizza

Thursday, October 8, 2015

We're SCREWED - Florida Anchoring Meeting

Illegal dinghies behind Karlton's house in Miami Beach
Mike Ahart, Waterway Guide’s news editor, watched the entire anchoring hearing in Tallahassee today, and here's the link to his article - Waterway Guides. For those wanting the real deal, here's the link to the meeting video itself.
Let me summarize this for you - we are in serious trouble in Florida, very serious trouble. First off, let me tell you what boaters’ enemy number one, the infamous Frederick Karlton of Sunset Lake, Miami Beach infamy had to say about boats coming south in the winter:
It becomes very dangerous" with too many boats, blocking access to docks, anchored too close and banging into the homeowners' docks and boats. "Our waterways literally become a shantytown," Karlton said. "There's a fishbowl effect at night...these people don't leave, they're dumping their solid waste in our waters”. Karlton also states that women on the waterfront are “living behind their curtains” because of boaters peering in windows at them. 
I’m not going to call Karlton a liar because I don’t care to be sued by him, but I do believe that if we asked him to prove any of this, he’d find it impossible to do so. 
Karlton has been caught telling tales about anchored boaters that didn’t hold up (such as waste discharge), since no charges regarding his complaints were laid by the police. And Karlton was cautioned by the police about harassing boaters near his house.
I will note here that the only boat accident I’m aware of near Karlton’s house was when Karlton himself drove his boat into an anchored boat less than 20 yards from where I sat watching it happen, in 2014. There was no one at the wheel of Karlton’s boat when he ran into the anchored boat - he had moved away from the wheel and wasn’t keeping any watch at all. The police, and I find this SO hard to believe, were not interested in what I had to tell them about what happened. When I tried to inform the Coast Guard boat that attended the incident - they chose to inspect my boat rather than investigate what happened.
Now you need to know, Karlton donates large amounts of money to politicians, so he gets listened to. He gets the best democracy he can buy.
Mark Gold is another individual (again, not the word I’d choose but this guy’s a lawyer and likes to sue people, as you’ll see) from Miami Beach who hates anchored out boats near his property. He claimed at an FWC hearing in Vero Beach last year that 10, 15, 20 boats anchored behind his property all winter long, stating they were in "his backyard". There’s only one problem with this - it isn’t true. He made similar claims today in Tallahassee.
There is room for perhaps a half dozen, at most, boats in that area. Mike Ahart estimated that four could anchor. I go past Gold's house several times every year and I’ve not ever seen one boat anchored there. Not once. I guess I need my eyes checked.
Interestingly enough, in the scurrilous rumors department, both of these men have been either accused of or charged with domestic violence issues in the past, and Gold once got so drunk at a Fort Lauderdale strip club that he spent some $19,000 in one night - and then sued the bar for the money, claiming they got him drunk. For details, see http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/beach-commission-candidate-fredric-karlton-had-some-lady-troubles-6552324, and also http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/mark-gold-ticket-lawyer-who-sued-strip-club-over-18k-bill-arrested-for-domestic-violence-6534306 and http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article1956640.html
What relevance does this have to the anchoring issue? None really, but the public needs to know what sort of individuals - not the word I choose to use, but again, I don’t want to be sued - that politicians are supporting in this fight. And perhaps those women in Karlton's neighbourhood have reason to be hiding....but not from we boaters.
Note that Gold states that he was behind the city of Miami Beach’s most recent ordinance, which wasn’t nearly as draconian as what he wanted: “We had asked for a 300' setback and a 2-day limit” Gold said. Miami Beach eventually went with a seven day limit on anchoring, which was rescinded when the pilot program came into effect.
Gold also claims that boaters are dumping raw sewage - apparently a favorite claim of these clowns - but I’d like to know how they can tell, since nearly every boat I’ve ever seen empties below the waterline. How do they know? 
The FWC's Richard Moore noted that they have no witnesses to this sort of behaviour - maybe he should go talk to Karlton and Gold - and see if their 'testimony' would pass muster. Somehow, I don't think it would.
The Florida League of Cities noted that a great many jurisdictions would want the right to create their own ordinances, and Rep. George Moraitus Jr. of Fort Lauderdale indicated that he intends to introduce (another) bill that allows local governance of anchoring for Broward County. The bill would also declare Middle River in Lauderdale a no anchoring zone.
Mike’s report makes for dismal reading. I meant it when I said that we, as boaters, are in serious trouble in Florida.
The vice chair of the meeting, referring to a Fort Lauderdale liveaboard in Lake Sylvia, actually asked a police officer, a friend of mine, if the police: “could just wake them out of there...”
If that’s what the committee vice chair is thinking out loud, suggesting an illegal act that in effect comprises harassment, to a police officer, just what is he not saying?
At this point, I have no idea if Rep. Caldwell took note of the many emails sent in by readers of this blog, and from the many Facebook pages my original blog post was copied to. I have asked him about it, but have had no response to my question. I’ll report back as soon as I hear anything.
So what can we do? I’m not entirely certain at this point - at the moment, there is little if anything to do, not at least until we hear what this workshop is thinking. 
However, if we do nothing, we are absolutely going to lose our rights to anchor in Florida. Only you can stop this from happening.
That you can count on. If you haven’t been involved in this fight yet, it’s time you got angry and did something, starting with joining the Seven Seas Cruising Association (www.ssca.org), who are the only organization fighting for the rights of we cruising boaters. After that, be prepared to write, email and make your views known.
This isn’t the last you’ll hear from me on this issue. We boaters are not a small group, it’s about time we roared our displeasure at what is going on, and made the politicians sit up and take notice. It's long past time we called out the Karltons and the Golds and made them back up their bogus claims publicly - which they cannot. 
It's time to drop the gloves here, and fight.
And it’s time that you, personally, got involved. We have very little time left if we are to win this fight, if indeed we can win it at all.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Florida is doing it AGAIN!

It’s no surprise that the majority of people affected by the Florida House of Representatives’ proposed workshop on the topic: “whether to restrict anchoring in public waters adjacent to waterfront residences”, will be unable to attend and make their views known.
Given the fact that the state of Florida has been attempting to restrict anchoring for years now, and continue to do so, these attempts to disenfranchise those most affected is now expected by those same people.
I don’t know about you, but I’m completely fed up with these ongoing attempts to eliminate the rights of the general public in favor of a few wealthy homeowners. To be very frank: it is long past time that politicians need to grow a spine - or perhaps some other appropriate appendages I won't name here - and tell these wealthy folk that the rights of the majority trump the wealthy homeowner's presumed right to an unimpeded view out their backyard.
In other words - tell them bluntly, no mincing of words - you bought the land to your property line, and not one inch beyond that. The rest of it belongs to the public and we, the State’s representatives, are mandated by the Public Trust Doctrine to preserve it for the public, not to grant you special rights to preserve your view.
What does the Public Trust Doctrine say? In part: 
…lands beneath navigable water bodies are not held for the purpose of sale or conversion into private ownership, strict limitations are imposed on the state’s ability to transfer the water bodies, or parts thereof, into private hands.”
To quote from a well known court decision, Broward v Mabry:

Anchoring is a lawful use of the water, and that's according to the Supreme Court.
To limit the rights of the general public with any sort of anchoring legislation would be in essence a conveyance of those rights to the hands of those benefiting from said conveyance - the waterfront landowners. After all, it is they who are driving this process of endless fighting over this issue, not the boaters, not the guy living inland or the casual tourist visiting the state. It’s a few wealthy homeowners who are the force behind this fight. They are our enemy.
None of this is to deny that there are legitimate concerns, but those concerns can easily be handled by ordinances, not overreaching state law. Examples abound - an anchored boat is too noisy? Local noise bylaws come into play. Give them a ticket. Pumping waste overboard? There must be dozens if not hundreds of local, state and federal laws that can be resorted to.
Derelict? The FWC has regulations that, if enforced, would end this problem within a few months. Of course, it would require that the state fund these efforts, and they aren’t doing that. It’s simply easier and less costly to look like you’re doing something by passing a new law.
Also - if they enforced these regulations, a certain individual's 20 some rotomolded dinghies, anchored behind his house in Miami Beach, would be Public Enemy #1. Not only are they illegally anchored, they are, by the FWC’s own definition, derelicts.
But nothing happens there because, as one police officer told me, the word has come down from Tallahassee: leave this guy alone.
I guess that’s what happens when you donate large amounts of money to politicians...or when, as one well connected local news guy told me, you allegedly give a big screen TV to the local marine unit, who respond within minutes to his every complaint. 
Funny, but when my dad was a cop, he’d have called that TV a bribe. 
I’m serious about the response time though - anchor behind this guy's house and you will have a police boat there within ten minutes asking you to move on - even though asking that of you is completely illegal on the part of the police. This has happened twice to me, and on different boats too. 
For the record, I’m told that when a police supervisor found out about the TV, it was removed and returned to Karlton. Funny, because the last time I was in that station, there was a big screen TV on the wall. And the man's dinghies are still anchored, illegally, behind his house and not the FWC, the USCG or the MB Police Marine Unit will do a thing about it.
Here is what Jay Campbell, a retired lawyer and Florida resident, said about the most recent attempts last year to limit anchoring in Florida:  “The proposals [of the FWC] seem to be unlawful, poorly thought out, against the interest of Florida citizens who are boaters, against the interests of Florida businesses which cater to boaters, and in support of ONLY a few wealthy landowners, represented by legislators who control the FWC funding. This is not how laws and regulations should be developed and implemented to support the public interest.”

So when is the workshop? Thursday, October 8, 2015, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Morris Hall (17 House Office Bldg.), Florida Capitol, Tallahassee, FL. If you can be there, I suggest that you go, and bring all your boating friends. I cannot be there, I’m at the Annapolis Boat Show, where I will be speaking to every boater I see about this issue and asking for their support. 
So - I’m asking you to be there for me. Speak up. Speak loudly. Make sure the legislators and their people get the message: we will NOT put up with this any longer. It is time that the politicians started representing everybody, not just the rich.
Do not let the meeting organizers suggest or insist that one person speaks for your group. They are obligated to listen to you, and if it takes more than the allotted three hours they have set out - too bad. Most of you will have to travel to be there, taking precious time out of your day - don’t let these weasels take that from you. Insist on being heard.
Why? The rich landowners may have money but we have one thing they do not - we have many more votes - and when politicians see that they are going to lose votes, they pay attention. It’s time to show them where the votes are - they already know where the money is, as we can see by their actions. 

If you cannot be there, you can send an email to John Love, Administrative Assistant
State Affairs Committee, John.Love@myfloridahouse.gov, (850) 717-4890. Tell him you can’t be at the workshop but you want your views aired so that these politicians get the message.
One last thing - if you agree with this blog post, share it with all of your boating friends and ask them to do the same. Post it to your Facebook page, and share it into all your groups. 
Get the word out, and get the gloves off. Let's end this damn fight once and for all.